What is rock bottom? For a healthy person it might be a job loss, property damage or a long flu. These are made harder with a chronic illness but they don’t come anywhere close to rock bottom for those suffering long term.
The other day I hit the first rock bottom I’ve had in a while. I had tried to do some light cleaning for a rental inspection the next day. My expectations were very low, I didn’t expect to vacuum or wash floors because I knew that’s out of my reach health wise. All I wanted to do was some tidying but that became far too much for my body. My body got progressively sicker with every step I took. My rock bottom was sitting on the floor of the shower balling my eyes out. I had already spent hours between the toilet and bucket and sometimes needing to sit on the toilet with the bucket in hand. I was going between boiling hot with profuse sweating and freezing cold with violent shakes and orange and blue skin. I didn’t want to get in bed covered in sweat, so I insisted I showered, but ended up on the ground as my dizziness was so great, and body too weak to hold me up. I had so much hope and internal will but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter how much I wanted it, my body just wouldn’t do it.
It is heart wrenching when you cannot control a single bodily function but over the course of my illness, this doesn’t come close to rock bottom. I woke up the next day still really sick but I had hope, hope that the next day would be better and hope for a future without suffering.
My absolute rock bottom was a year ago. I was mostly bed bound and had to use a wheelchair to leave the house. I needed assistance to do the smallest self care tasks like eating and showering. Although the physical suffering was huge, it wasn’t the worst part. The mental suffering was far worse. My brain wasn’t mine any longer. The Lyme bacteria had taken over my emotional centre and was causing havoc. I have always relied on my feelings to guide me in life but I could no longer do that. My feelings weren’t my own. It was like the core of my being had been taken away. I wasn’t me anymore. I would often switch between a feeling of overwhelming emotion and complete apathy. It took the littlest thing for me to fly off the handle as I was in a constant state of agitation for absolutely no reason. Everything that made me, me, had been taken away, including my hope. I didn’t have hope for the future, for a day that I might be well again. I didn’t have the hope that I would make it through the next day, let alone week, month or year. I couldn’t see why I should live any more. That was rock bottom.
But if there’s one thing this illness has taught me, is that I am far stronger than I could have ever imagined. I made it through every minute of pain, fatigue, cognitive impairment and emotional turmoil. I was able to find a small bit of hope to cling onto until I found a new treatment at the start of this year. With the new treatment came renewed hope. Maybe one day I would be able to fulfill the many dreams that I had given up on. Maybe one day I could complete my degrees and have a career. Maybe one day I could make a difference in the world. And that’s how I made it here. A year later, with slightly improved body functioning but far more hope.
I believe that everything happens for a reason. I believe that I have gone through, and continue to go through these struggles, because they are shaping me into the person I am meant to be. I am much kinder and more compassionate now that I have suffered through these lows. I know myself far better than an average 25 year old and I know that no matter what the world throws at me, that I can get through it. I know I am strong.
If you are reading this and feeling everything that I felt a year ago, I am here to tell you that you can do it. Hope is everything to me, it has given me strength on my darkest days, and I believe hope can do that for you too. I started off with small portions of hope, like hoping that my medication would kick in and I would have some sort of relief. Slowly I was able to expand my hope and begin to hope for the next day and next week. Now I have hope for the future. I have the hope that one day I will have my degrees, have a career, a family and be able to do my part to make the world a better place. I believe hope can do this for you too. It will not stop your suferring but it will give you a reason to fight on.